UPDATE: On March 12, 2019, President Trump signed the legislation into law.
UPDATE: On February 26, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives followed the Senate in passing legislation (S. 47) that includes permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund; it also reauthorizes the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, championed in the U.S. House by Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA). The House vote was 363-62.
NEW YORK, N.Y. -- “No other conservation program has invested so much in our public spaces at absolutely zero cost to the taxpayer,” said David Yarnold, (@david_yarnold) president and CEO of National Audubon Society. “It has opened countless parks and outdoor spaces to birders, bikers, nature lovers and history buffs in almost every county in every state in our nation. It has helped protect some of our most vulnerable birds across the country—from Golden-winged Warbler habitat in North Carolina to wintering areas for Bald Eagles in Washington State. And it doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime.”
Today, the Senate passed legislation, the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47) that will permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but does not dedicate permanent funding for the program. Until today’s action, the LWCF required repeated reauthorization from Congress to remain in existence, and inaction from Congress left the program to expire twice in the last three years. Funded by a portion of offshore oil and gas leases and at no cost to taxpayers, it returns $4 in economic value for every one dollar it invests in federal land acquisition. The House is expected to take up the legislation in the coming weeks.
Since it was created in 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has received strong bipartisan support from Republicans and Democrats. $4.7 billion in grants have funded nearly 42,000 projects in almost every county in the United States. Altogether, $18.4 billion has contributed to the protection of some of the nation’s most iconic natural treasures from the Everglades National Park in southern Florida to the Painted Desert in Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park to the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway that traverses Virginia and North Carolina. It has built or improved thousands of parks, recreation centers, and playing fields in cities and rural communities across America.
“Senator Burr’s and Senator Cantwell’s leadership on this issue has been critical to its passage. Audubon is proud to partner with them to enhance natural spaces for us all to enjoy,” Yarnold added.
More than 10 million people visit areas LWCF has invested in each year, spending over $500 million in local communities. Outdoor recreation—especially wildlife-associated recreation—is growing in the country. Areas protected and improved by LWCF ensure that this 40% of the population, including 45.1 million birders, has a place to explore. Significantly, it has protected Important Birds Areas like California’s Point Reyes National Seashore, Golden-winged Warbler habitat in North Carolina, wintering areas for Bald Eagles in Washington, and is helping to restore the Everglades.
Some specific ways in which the LWCF helps protect critical bird habitats through a variety of programs can be found here.
The Senate legislation passed today also reauthorized the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act. This partnership-based program has benefitted 4.5 million acres of habitat across the hemisphere for the hundreds of migratory bird species that nest in the United States and spend the winter in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, or South America. Audubon especially thanks Senator Cardin and Senator Portman for their leadership to reauthorize this vital program for birds.
In addition, the bill includes the controversial Alaska Native Vietnam Veterans Allotments Act (S. 785). While Audubon respects the legislation’s goals, we remain concerned about the approach to privatizing parcels of Alaska public lands in ways that could break up important protected wildlife habitat.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at www.audubon.org and @audubonsociety.
Contact: Anne Singer, email@example.com, 202-271-4679